We begin the Season of Lent this week on a day known as Ash Wednesday, so significant that one city prepares all year long for the party* that wraps up the night before.
What is Lent? Lent is a forty day period, excluding Sundays, during which disciples of Jesus Christ prepare themselves spiritually for the remembrance of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection. The name is derived from the Old English, lengten, a reference to the lengthening of the days in the spring.
Beginning in the second century, Christians would undergo a brief period of fasting and prayer in preparation for Good Friday and Easter. By the fourth century the period had been extended to forty days to coincide with the forty days that Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry. The number forty also corresponds to the forty years God's people were wandering in the wilderness after the Exodus.
It was common to fast from meat and dairy products during Lent, and many Christian converts made their first professions of faith in Jesus as Lord. It was also a time of repentance for those who had abandoned the faith. The season is a time for more intense and intentional spiritual growth during which we remember the message, the life, the suffering and death of Christ.
Our annual Ash Wednesday Service begins at 6:30 pm in the Sanctuary, where we are marked with ashes as a sign of our desire to repent of our sin and follow Jesus, and offered the chance to write out our prayers of confession and then destroy them following the service. I invite you to attend this special service. It will be brief, but the experience will stay with us. It will be a time spent well in preparation for Easter.
In the tradition of the ancient church, we're inviting you to do three things this Lent:
1. Be in worship every weekend you are in town.
2. Give up something as a fast and expression of your faith and identification with Jesus' suffering.
3. Join the whole church in reading through the devotional book, Praying for 5, available at the church this Sunday. We can make Easter the best ever for folks who need a church home!
Join us as we start this journey on Wednesday. Grace and Peace, Scott
* New Orleans is the city, and Mardi Gras is the party.